Some students may sense emptiness around the SAIT campus this year.
A hole, in the spot between frustrations with SAIT’s wireless Internet and the love of free welcome week food, needs filling. This emptiness is where the animosity for the Mount Royal Cougars used to live.
“The Trojans and Cougars rivalry was one thing that unified students, I think, and with that gone it really does feel like something is missing,” said Christian Makowski, a second year Business Management student.
After almost half a century of bloody battles and merciless matchups, the Cougars moved from the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) to the Canada West conference of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), and the longstanding rivalry between the Trojans and Cougars has officially ended.
Since 1964, the cross-city rivals have packed each other’s gyms, fields or hockey rinks full of raucous students eager to out-cheer one another.
It was a rivalry built on proximity and the unique SAIT and Mount Royal partnership could be compared to a clingy boyfriend/girlfriend in junior high.
It took them leaving to realize how much one enjoyed them always being there, and Trojans fans want to know when the Trojans will find a relationship like that again.
“You’d think that, because Mount Royal is out, it would open the door for us, but I don’t think it’s that automatic because the other schools (in the ACAC) are getting a lot stronger,” said Ken Babey, Trojans athletic director.
Babey believes that losing a rival like the Cougars has a lot of downside, but it’s also worth considering that the ACAC will be more competitive with the departure of a strong program.
Particularly, MRU has consistently dominated in most sports against SAIT. In fact, out of the four main sports (basketball, hockey, soccer and volleyball), SAIT has an all-time winning record against MRU in only one – men’s hockey.
The absence of MRU in the ACAC may initially appear like competition will be weaker; however, Babey said that’s not the case.
“Mount Royal’s courses are also changing so some top athletes may be more inclined to head to other colleges to study and play sports, leveling the playing field in the ACAC,” said Babey.
Several Trojans athletes described the MRU meetings to have a much different feeling than the other teams; that the dressing room beforehand had a tension and excitement that hung in the air with the smell of sweaty jock straps – a feeling unmatched by, say, a Concordia Thunder or Lakeland Rustlers meeting.
Although it is bittersweet to have MRU gone, it can be for the better, and once fans get over the shock of the changing times, they can look towards better competition and new rivalries in the future.
Whether it is newcomers St. Mary’s in women’s basketball or Keyano College in men’s hockey, new rivals for SAIT will be born, and hopefully they’ll be able to fill that empty space where the Cougars used to live.